Constitutional amendment ‘profoundly misled the citizens who were induced to sign the petition’ and voters who are asked to adopt it
SAN FRANCISCO (March 18, 2010) — The City and County of San Francisco today joined with public entities from throughout California in a lawsuit to strike the controversial PG&E-funded initiative constitutional amendment, Proposition 16, from the June 8, 2010 statewide ballot for being wholly false and misleading, and for concealing its true nature and purpose from voters. Dubiously self-entitled the “Taxpayers Right to Vote Act” by its proponents, despite having no bearing on taxation or government spending, the California Attorney General recently re-entitled the measure, “New Two-Thirds Vote Requirement for Local Public Electricity Providers.” The proposed amendment would impose a new super-majority vote threshold before public entities in California would be allowed to pursue virtually any energy services programs intended to benefit ratepayers or the environment.
According to the civil complaint jointly filed in Sacramento County Superior Court this morning by the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, San Francisco Local Agency Formation Commission, City and County of San Francisco, City of Moreno Valley, the City of Redding, the California Municipal Utilities Association, the San Joaquin Valley Power Authority, the Modesto Irrigation District, and the Merced Irrigation District: “[T]he carefully worded text of Proposition 16 profoundly misled the citizens who were induced to sign the petition to qualify it, and will mislead the voters who are asked to adopt it. Proposition 16 is intended and designed by PG&E, the sole sponsor and contributor to the initiative, to use the California Constitution to lock in PG&E’s control of electricity service in areas that it now serves so that its customers have no feasible opportunity to choose the lower prices and better service offered by public providers of electricity.”
“Despite what its proponents would have us believe, Prop 16 doesn’t help taxpayers and doesn’t empower voters-in fact, it does the exact opposite,” said San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera. “Enabling a one-third minority to hold the will of the majority hostage has been a disaster for our state budget process in Sacramento. Now, Prop 16 would impose that recipe for deadlock on California’s energy future. State law enables courts to remove initiatives that misrepresent and conceal their true nature and purpose. If our elections laws are to have meaning, the court should strike this deceptive amendment from the ballot.”
Herrera added: “I am enormously grateful to the numerous public agencies working with us in this lawsuit. I am also very thankful to Supervisor and LAFCo Chair Ross Mirkarimi and SFPUC General Manager Ed Harrington for their leadership and hard work to fulfill the promise of consumer choice and cleaner energy in San Francisco.”
San Francisco has launched CleanPowerSF, a community choice aggregation program which aims to generate at least half of its electricity from renewable sources within a decade for consumers who choose to be in the program. Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, who as chair the Local Agency Formation Commission, or LAFCo, led the successful effort to adopt San Francisco’s Community Choice Aggregation plan, said: “Proposition 16 ought to be entitled, ‘The PG&E Monopoly Protection Act,’ because it would enshrine into our state constitution an unprecedented electoral advantage for one company. This measure asks Californians to surrender the principle of majority rule, and enable PG&E to kill any competing public energy program it wants by winning just over a third of the vote. Prop 16 is a democracy-killer, unless stymied, it will open the door to corporate carve-outs in our Constitution by well-funded corporate interests. The passage of Prop 16 shall become a harbinger for the rest of the nation-citizen and ratepayer rights will be subordinate to a failed regulatory regime that will allow companies like PG&E to run roughshod. So much rides on the hope that the court carefully considers this lawsuit, and acts decisively to protect the integrity of our democracy by striking Prop 16 from the June ballot.”
“CleanPowerSF aims to provide San Franciscans with more renewable energy at a cost-competitive price,” said SFPUC General Manager Ed Harrington. “Consumers benefit by having a choice where none currently exists.”
The case is Modesto Irrigation District et al. v. Debra Bowen et al., filed March 18, 2010. A copy of the Petition for Peremptory Writ of Mandate is available on the City Attorney’s Web site at http://www.sfcityattorney.org/.